In HOPE
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David Timms 

Issue 5.4

Ministry Resource

I've just finished reading Thomas Merton's New Seeds of Contemplation (New Directions Books, 1972, first published 1961). I don't recommend this as your first introduction to Merton, but if you've come alongside him before, this will be a challenging word for your spiritual formation. 

HOPE Happenings

Hope International University is hosting and sponsoring a "Beautiful Conference" on March 17-18, featuring Angela Thomas. This terrific conference, for women, focuses on rising above the cultural pressures for external beauty and discovering the inner beauty God sees in every woman. For more information visit www.hiu.edu .    

Lent

Ash Wednesday is upon us today, and so Lent begins - a season with which many evangelicals are fairly unfamiliar.

 

Ash Wednesday has been celebrated for 1400 years. Traditionally it has been a time when the Church has taken ash (from the burnt fronds of the previous year's Palm Sunday) and marked the foreheads of worshippers as a sign of their repentance of sin. And then the 40 days of Lent begins.

 

Lent is a liturgical season that possibly goes back to 325 AD in its origin. The word "lent" simply means "Spring" (as in the season). It has traditionally been a season of fasting to re-enact the 40 days of temptation that Jesus endured (Matt 4.2ff). The fast is finally broken with the celebration of Easter Sunday, truly a resurrection experience for each believer who has "died" to something for the season.

 

You're not going to find Ash Wednesday or Lent in the New Testament. Jesus did not institute them specifically and Paul didn't write about them. But the spiritual practice perhaps deserves a resurgence in our time, when sin is downplayed and self-denial is ignored.

 

I come from a wonderful church tradition called the Restoration Movement. Our forebears in the early 1800s (Britain and the USA) embraced various mottos such as "No creed but Christ" and they would perhaps be suspicious of my suggestion today. Things liturgical have been viewed as "things superficial" or "matters of the head not the heart." Yet, the Church throughout the centuries - in its finest moments - has always been guided by men and women who saw value in symbolism and tradition ... a tradition merely being a thing "handed down."

 

In a culture of excess, instant gratification, and self-affirmation the notions of "repentance" and "restraint" are not popular. Besides, 40 days is a long time. Nearly seven weeks of "deprivation" (Sundays are excluded), is a real commitment. But isn't faith just that? A real commitment to dying and living with Christ, and a real commitment to dealing actively and seriously with sin?

 

Historically, believers have fasted (chocolate, sweets, meat, fish, dairy products, eggs, television, whatever) so that they might have all the greater celebration on Easter Sunday of "resurrection" life and freedom.

 

Lent may not be your "cup of tea". That's fine. But as leaders in the Kingdom, how are we guiding people to repentance, restraint, and resurrection? The outer forms have potential, if utilized wisely, to produce serious inner transformation.

 

This ancient annual event - somewhat overshadowed by the hedonism of Mardi Gras and Carnival yesterday - is a systematic way to press hard after God. What prompts you to repenatnce and restraint?

 

May each of us find ways to "die daily" (1 Cor 15.31), to be "crucified with Christ" (Gal 2.20), and to deepen our walk with God.

 

In HOPE -

P.S.   If you'd like a one-page document about "Lent" and simple suggestions for how you might make the most of the season, just email me (djtimms@hiu.edu ) and ask for "Lent 2005".

 

Hope International University
Fullerton, CA 92831

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Disclaimer: David Timms Chairs the Graduate Ministry Department at Hope International University in Fullerton, California. However, "In HOPE" is not an official publication of the University and the views are not necessarily those of the administrators or Board of the institution.

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